Conflicting reports on the dangers of Zika virus for U.S. citizens can be confusing to the general public. Saint Louis University experts are available to clear up the confusion.

To schedule an interview with a SLU expert, contact Maggie Rotermund at or at 314-977-8018.

Public Health

Alexander Garza, M.D. MPH serves as Associate Dean for Public Health Practice, as well as Chair and Professor in Environmental & Occupational Health at the Saint Louis University College of Public Health and Social Justice.

Dr. Garza comes to SLU after service in the Federal Government. In August of 2009, Dr. Garza was appointed by President Obama and confirmed by the US Senate as the Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs and Chief Medical Officer for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security where he served until April of 2013. Dr. Garza led the health and security efforts for DHS which included the health aspects of terrorism and natural disasters.

He says: "The government should be supporting spending money for the development of vaccines for emerging infections," Garza said. "We have seen this before with Ebola as an emerging infectious disease and we need to have a serious strategy to stay ahead of the curve instead of coming up behind."

He can offer an update on CDC guidelines, talk about the need for vaccine research on this emerging infection and calls for increased funding to test moms who might be infected and their babies for Zika.

Infectious Diseases

Daniel Hoft, M.D., Ph.D. was trained in Infectious Diseases at the University of Iowa, where he received an NIH Physician Science Training Award (PSTA) allowing him to complete a Ph.D. in microbiology/immunology. He came to Saint Louis University in 1992 and has received continuous NIH funding since his arrival.

In 2006, he was named the Director of the new Division of Immunobiology. In 2010, the Divisions of Immunobiology, Infectious Diseases and Allergy & Immunology were joined into the new Division of Infectious Diseases, Allergy & Immunology with Dr. Hoft as Director. In 2014 he became the Principal Investigator of SLU's Vaccine & Treatment Evaluation Unit (VTEU). Dr. Hoft has expertise in vector-borne diseases.

“So far, we don't really know the relationship between neonatal microcephaly and Zika infection of their pregnant mothers,” Hoft said. “And otherwise, Zika virus in the overwhelming majority of cases is an mild, transient illness.”


Jaye Shyken, M.D. provides perinatal care, including treatment for pregnancy complications. She offers preconception and genetic counseling, ultrasound for prenatal diagnosis, and sees patients requiring intensive care management during pregnancy.

Dr. Shyken is an associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Women’s Health, Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, at Saint Louis University School of Medicine and a SLUCare OB/GYN.

She is a member of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, the St. Louis Society of Perinatal Obstetricians, and the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine. She is a fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Shyken recommends women avoid traveling to Zika infected countries if possible. Pregnant women who have visited a country impacted by the Zika outbreak should check in with their OB/GYN when they return home.

“It is especially important to report symptoms,” she said. “There are different protocols for symptomatic vs. asymptomatic patients.”


Kenneth Haller, Jr., M.D. serves as associate professor of pediatrics at Saint Louis University and a SLUCare pediatrician at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital. Haller is the incoming president of the Missouri Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The American Medical Association recognized Dr. Haller in 1999 for his contributions to improving health care in underserved communities. He received the 1990 Illinois State Medical Society Public Service Award for his work to improve health in minority communities.

Haller says: “If you're pregnant and have not been to the Caribbean, Central or South America during your pregnancy, you have nothing to worry about. If you have been to these areas during your pregnancy, talk to your OB about getting an ultrasound to look for microcephaly or intracranial calcifications (small head or abnormal calcium deposits in the brain). If you are planning to visit these areas during your pregnancy, you might want to postpone your trip till after the baby is born.

If you visited the Caribbean, Central or South America during a recent pregnancy, and your baby is fine, you should talk to your child's pediatrician about this and decide whether any testing needs to be done on your child.